Notes of death, destruction, despair in diary

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It was just another routinely busy day for Hu Hanjun, a riot police officer with Chinese peacekeepers in Haiti.

But 10 days after the devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation, the entries in his diary on Jan 23 evoke a stark picture of the desperation of the survivors, the daily perils the peacekeepers face and the race to conduct relief operations.

On that day, Hu and nine Chinese colleagues were tasked with escorting a delegation from the United Nations headquarters in New York to inspect the town of Leogane to estimate the damage there and lay the groundwork for relief work.

On the way to the city, which suffered some of the worst damage, Hu notes in the diary - which was made available to the media yesterday - that most members of the delegation were on their first visit to the country and "were shocked by the poverty and backwardness".

"Along the road from Port-au-Prince, the capital, to Leogane, most of the buildings had been flattened, and those standing seemed to be tottering.

"Some of the local people climbed onto the ruins to dig for concrete with huge hammers, which they would exchange for food at local waste recyclers.

"There are roadblocks here and there all the way, formed by landslides and the ruins of the vehicles piled up," he noted.

It's really a once-in-a-century calamity, a member of the delegation told Lin Guanjin, who served as the translator for the UN delegation.

Leogane, 29 km west of Port-au-Prince, was almost totally destroyed, a policeman named Eto'o from Cameroon and a member of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) stationed in the town, told the delegation when they arrived.

"It was just chaotic, with the moaning of the injured, the heart-rending wails of those who lost their beloved, and the sporadic riots here and there," Hu quoted Eto'o as saying in his diary.

"Some of the rioters, despite the presence of armed policemen, used big knives to threaten shopkeepers for bread.

"It is really a humanitarian crisis," the Cameroonian said, shaking his head.

"At one school, half a classroom survived the earthquake and stood there lonely, with the 10-plus desks and chairs the students were using when the disaster happened."

The town's police bureau was paralyzed with a shortage of hands when the UN delegation arrived. A large number of locals swarmed there to report cases which could not be recorded.

Pointing to the case documents piling up on the ground and the collapsed computers, the head of the police bureau told the UN delegation that it was impossible to work.

Only three policemen remained at work as many returned home to their devastated families.

The UN delegation wanted to stay there longer but were overwhelmed by thousands of survivors who thought relief materials were being handed out.

The escorting policemen evaluated the situation and advised the delegation to withdraw as soon as possible for the sake of their safety.

"Finally, the delegation managed to leave under our protection by making our way out through heavy crowds," the entry reads.

"On the way back, gravity prevailed in the bus as delegation members kept their heads down and stayed busy writing in their notebooks.

"I just prayed that the UN delegation could bring some bliss to the Haiti people."

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